Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Talking Heads singer David Byrne plays host to this bizarre patchwork of tabloid-inspired tales, set in the fictional town of Virgil, Texas.  Cruising the streets in his cherry-red drop-top, Byrne introduces viewers to the local eccentrics gearing up for the town’s 150th anniversary.  They include a community leader (Spalding Gray) with a thing for veggies, a woman (Swoosie Kurtz) so lazy she won’t leave her bed, a lovelorn country singer (John Goodman) and more!  (Google blurb)

Not the Indiana University Cinema blurb this time, for a change of pace.  But what can you say?  It was Monday night’s showing at the Cinema, and it was fun.  Except of course the tales in TRUE STORIES aren’t really true, but they almost could be.  They’re tales of middle American individuals and families that ought to be true, the eccentrics and characters you likely met yourself when you were growing up — and that you still might be now if you pause to look.  Well, maybe not quite the fashion show at the local mall, but even it sort of.  And it’s clean, gentle fun, enhanced this time, I thought, by seeing on the big screen in the theater partly because of the people around me, picking the humor up, laughing out loud at times but never raucously, always with its own kind of politeness.

It was a good film for an unseasonably warm day at its afternoon best, but for which the rains had come when we got out.  A residual warmness on the walk home, and even the rain more of a friendly drizzle.  And one thing I noted, but kind of strangely:  The film, really a series of vignettes, has at its closest to a plot the fictional town of Virgil, Texas preparing for its 150th anniversary, culminating in a parade and a nighttime talent show, the latter of which gave me a sudden reminder — and maybe a new understanding as well — of President Trump’s inaugural concert three years ago.  Small town acts in spirit, yet for the performers a kind of love too.  But in overall context still with a touch of weirdness that gave the feeling that this is a film that might be most enjoyed if one watches it having been mildly soused.

Humor pervaded the featured portion of this evening’s Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” at local tavern Bears Place (cf. February 5, et al.) with storyteller Nell Weatherwax opening with two pieces on her first amateur comedy club presentation and an up-coming radio gig morphing into the eccentricities of her father; stand-up comedian Shanda Sung on the everyday challenges of being a 35-year-old woman and mother of three kids; and Mary Armstrong-Smith with “I Teach at the Walgreen’s” and “Watering the Flower,” the latter concerning a childhood memory about family relations and an incident with her mother and grandmother and a pet puppy, all presentations extremely funny but with their serious sides as well.  Then, along with musical guest Trillium, a well-populated open mike portion brought nine readers, with me number four with another in my “Casket Girls” series, “Fit for a King,” with the irrepressible Claudette and more poetically-minded Yvonne discussing the pre-Mardi Gras carnaval tradition of sharing a king cake.

At the movies again, with a new 10 p.m. Friday night “Not-Quite Midnights” Indiana University Cinema feature, Terry Gilliam’s 1977 JABBERWOCKY.  Says the cinema’s program blurb:  Terry Gilliam’s first solo directorial film — less than two years after directing MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL with Terry Jones — is a wildly imaginative tale that follows a young peasant with no taste for adventure as he is mistakenly chosen to rid the kingdom of a ghastly monster threatening the countryside.  Though inspired by a line from a Lewis Carroll poem, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch,” the film is unquestionably a product of Gilliam’s creative genius.  Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.  Contains mature content, including nudity, strong language, and violence.

I recommend it!  I admittedly went with a slightly doubtful feeling, having seen MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL before, the first time enjoying it well enough, but more recently realizing that it was really more a series of skits, any of which could have been good alone on the old MONTE PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS TV show, but which became tedious strung together into a feature length movie.  That is they may have been agreeably silly, and all on a medieval theme tied into a sort of quest plot, but ultimately not really rising to much more than a series of jokes.  Indeed, the docent pointed out before the film that Gilliam himself was anxious to not just produce a repeat but to put his own stamp on JABBERWOCKY, and now having seen it I think he succeeded.  There’s silliness, yes, a lot of it, but now of a kind that grows out of the situations in the film as opposed to being there just for its own sake, and giving the whole a sense of more depth.  A fleshing out of, yes, a still fairly simple plot, but combined with much better production values as well, giving for me a greater sense of completeness.  And, attempted explanations aside, still a lot of fun.

I live near the end of a postal route which means that my mail usually arrives in late afternoon or evening — sometimes in these winter months even after dark, possibly not to be discovered until the next morning.  That’s reflected here when an item often may not get posted until the next day (though of course email items can also not be received until very late) as, for instance, now.

So what Thursday’s mail brought was a fairly bulky padded package, in which was my long-awaited author’s copy of SPACE OPERA LIBRETTOS (cf. January 1, et al.), the book of [d]ramatic, large-scale stories of the distant future, focused on optimism and inclusion and blowing things up.  Weird mashups.  Actual arias.  Fat ladies singing on funeral pyres.  Watery tarts distributing swords optional.  So had said the guidelines and so, at last, it was here — part of the game is that authors’ copies, at least in print, often come slowly, publishers having to fulfill paid customers’ orders first — including my own tale in number three spot, “The Needle Heat Gun,” a saga of heroism and love on an uncharted planet with, if not formal singing, a lot of humming.

If interested, “The Needle Heat Gun” is one of twenty stories of music and outer-space (or thereabouts) mayhem, more on which can be found by pressing here.

Then for a quick Friday addendum (or electronic copies can come much faster), today’s email brought a PDF authors’ copy of SEVEN DEADLY SINS:  LUST (see post just below) with my “A Cup Full of Tears,” a brief recounting of sweet lesbian vampire love.  With it came instructions for also obtaining a paperback copy, but with a warning:  that its arrival might be less quick.

No, the Goth Cat Triana once again stayed at home, concentrating on her important work of holding down the bed.  After all, if she didn’t it could drift away — and then where would either of us be!  Be that as it may, “CatVideoFest 2020” (cf., for 2019, June 8) was also sold out at the Indiana University Cinema, though again I had bought my ticket early.  And it’s for a good cause, as notes the IU Cinema blurb:  A percentage of the proceeds from this event will directly support Lil BUB’s Big FUND, the first national fund for special-needs pets.
We are excited to welcome Yorick and Grace from the Monroe County Humane Association’s V.I.Paws program to CatVideoFest 2020!  V.I.Paws is an MCHA program intended to share the support and success of the human-animal bond and provide animal-related therapies in the community.   V.I.Paws is a specialized group of volunteer handler and animal teams.
Yorick and Grace will be positioned in our lower lobby prior to the CatVideoFest 2020 screening from 3:15–4 pm.
The Ranch Cat Rescue will also be be present for CatVideoFest 2020.
(In particular, we may recall the late Lil Bub, Bloomington’s own special-need cat and video star who passed, at the age of 8, on December 1 2019, having spent her short life, among other things, publicizing and raising money for animal rescue groups.)
And of CatVideoFest in general:  CatVideoFest is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic Internet powerhouses.  CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and is committed to raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.
Even without Triana’s presence, this afternoon’s presentation was great fun.  Lil Bub was represented too, in one of the videos, as well as a comeback of Henri, le Chat Noir (who in a way we owe for the whole thing), this time with “Part Deux.”  And otherwise, drama, action, thrills, and lots of humor — including a sequence on cats’ relation with beds!
For an idea of the Fest for yourself, to see the “official” trailer press here.

You don’t get many movies at the IU Cinema that are announced as sold out only days after first being listed, but this was an exception.  The Korean “Best Picture” Oscar winner, PARASITE, but with an added twist.  This would be the black and white version.

Why black and white? As noted by HOLLYWOODREPORTER.COM, Director Bong Joon Ho has suggested, first, that movie classics we remember, the NOSFERATUs, earlier Alfred Hitchcock, et al., were in black and white, so why not modern films as well?  But it’s not done lightly:  The new version of PARASITE was actually made before the original color edition had its premiere in Cannes, where it won the Palme d’Or.  Bong, with his director of photographer and colorist, worked on the new grading shot by shot.

“You can’t just put it in a computer and turn it into black and white,” he said, adding that he faced extra difficulties because he hadn’t considered black and white when working on the film’s production design or art direction, making particular scenes — such as the flooding, with mud water floating around — require extra consideration.

With the color removed, he said, viewers were given a stronger sense of contrast between the rich family and the poor.

“We can focus more on the texture,” he said, emphasizing the “very glossy and clean” surfaces in the house of the rich family.

Or, as the IU Cinema itself put it:  Regarding this version, which was created prior to the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Director Bong Joon Ho said:

“I’m extremely happy to present PARASITE in black and white and have it play on the big screen.  It will be fascinating to see how the viewing experience changes when an identical film is presented in black and white.  I watched the black and white version twice now, and at times the film felt more like a fable and gave me the strange sense that I was watching a story from old times.”

“The second time I watched it, the film felt more realistic and sharp as if I was being cut by a blade.  It also further highlighted the actors’ performances and seemed to revolve more around the characters.  I had many fleeting impressions of this new version, but I do not wish to define them before it is presented.  I hope everyone in the audience can compare their own experiences from the color version and find their own path to PARASITE in black and white.”

And so it goes.  I have not myself seen the color version, however, so — with memories, granted, of the films cited above, as well as Japanese films like RASHOMON and the original SEVEN SAMURAI, as well as American film noir classics — I (having bought my ticket well in advance), went into the theater prepared for what might be an unusual experience.  And in short, it was, with I thought the black and white version working quite well as an Asian sort of film noir in its own right, but quite a bit more too.  And — very possibly — better than it might have been in the color version.

Beyond that, the docent said before the film that “a lot of fun for this movie comes from not knowing anything about it,” though adding three points that pervade the film:  (1) that “money tends to smooth rich people out” — that is, despite being ignorant of those below them, they seem nice; (2) a lack of class solidarity (particularly in the lower orders); (3) the hand of American capitalism coloring all, e.g. “[knowledge of] English is almost like a commodity.”  In an earlier blurb, the IU Cinema classed the film’s genres as Drama and Thriller, though I was also struck by how funny the film is, in a knowing, satirical manner at first but, in the end, also darkly hilarious.  Also while not a horror film, really, there are horror tropes.  And mostly, in a perverse kind of sense, it’s a film about family — at least in my opinion.

Then, finally, to quote the “earlier” IU Cinema blurb:  Winner of the 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or, Bong Joon Ho’s newest film is a darkly comedic, genre tale of class struggle that has drawn comparisons to Jordan Peele’s US.  Ki-taek’s family is close, but fully unemployed, with a bleak future ahead of them.  Ki-woo, Ki-taek’s son, is recommended for a well-paid tutoring job, spawning the promise of a regular income.  Carrying the expectations of all his family, Ki-woo heads to the Park family home for an interview.  Arriving at the house of Mr. Park, the owner of a global IT firm, Ki-woo meets Yeon-kyo, the beautiful young woman of the house.  Following this first meeting between the two families, an unstoppable string of mishaps lies in wait.  In Korean with English subtitles.  Contains mature content. 

A humble serving of completely irreverent Cthulhu and Lovecraftian inspired stories.  This assortment of horror short stories and flash fiction takes Cthulhu and other elements of Lovecraftian mythos and tells them in a comedic tone.

Yep, so says the blurb on Amazon.  DEEP FRIED HORROR:  CTHULHU CHEESE BURGER (cf. January 16, 4) is up and available both on Kindle and in print.  It is a smallish book as such things go, only about sixty pages, but not overly expensive either.  To see for yourself and/or order, press here (for print) or for Kindle press here.

My part in this porridge is called “The Reading,” first published in UNIVERSE HORRIBILIS (Third Flatiron Publishing, 2013), a literary tale of poets and poetry, and trepidation when reading in public . . . or something like that.  It doesn’t end well.

To quote from the advertising copy:   CTHULHU CHEESE BURGER comes with four juicy patties, layers of melted cheese, and fresh baked buns.  A very delicious combination of savory flavors, which is good.  You’ll need something to distract from the full-body possession that occurs later.  You might experience vomiting, seizing on the floor, and risk biting your tongue, but you’ll then be enslaved by Cthulhu’s powerful mind-magic.

Why not give it a try?

Sunday afternoon brought the new year’s opening Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (see December 1, et al.) at local tavern Bear’s Place, with both featured readers presenting essays.  First up was poet and Writers Guild regular Eric Rensberger with “Some Old Books 3,” which is to say the third in a series of prose pieces on several books in his collection discussing not so much their actual contents, but rather their provenance.  Thus old children’s readers with successions of past owners’ names in the front, speculation about how they were passed on, anecdotes about family members who’d had them before they came into his hands — in short, the human side and what may have been made of the contents rather than what the contents themselves may have said.  He was followed by writer, freelance photographer, actor, and director Darrell Stone who, noting America may once again be moving toward “the fog of war,” presented three essays based around kindness, the first on the sole souvenir her father had kept from his service in World War II, the second on a transformative sixth grade teacher, and ending with a humorous piece about three nuns and the joy of their laughing over an absurd item found in a store.  In all just over thirty people attended, a possible record, of which about 25 remained after the break where I was second of five walk-on readers with a post-Christmas tale — or rather a dark-humored sequel to Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which I had premiered about two years before — “The Christmas Cat.”

To end 2019 with a song, word came Tuesday afternoon that SPACE OPERA LIBRETTI:  MODERN COMEDIC SPACE OPERA WITH ARIAS (cf. November 12, et al.) is out in paperback, with a Kindle edition set for Saturday, January 4.  The problem with space opera is that there’s not enough opera in it, and certainly a dearth of coloratura diva sopranos in the third act.  This anthology sets out to fix that by placing the music front-and-center.  We’ve created a glittery disco-ball of fun.  20 stories designed to amuse.  Some actually take place in space.  There’s even an actual opera in here.  We didn’t hold back.  Time-traveling cats that quote opera. . .  Intergalactic singing competitions. . .  An endless song that becomes the soundtrack to countless generations of rebellions. . .  And, of course, invisible space bears made of black holes that may or may not be extinct.  My dump in the drama pops up in third place in the story contents, a swashbuckling symphony of stubbornness and song, “The Needle Heat Gun” which, accompanied by nineteen additional tune-tales, can become yours by pressing here.

Well, what a coincidence!  Wednesday I posted about an anthology, FORBIDDEN!  TALES OF REPRESSION, RESTRICTION, AND REBELLION, that had been delayed but was now finally released.  A collection, one might surmise, that might include musings on political topics, real or imagined.  Perhaps even a bit of political satire which, by its nature, would likely displease at least some of its potential readers.

So fast forward two days, and a here-and-now piece of satire, a tale I was hesitant to send out at first but at last took a chance on, a reflection of fast-moving current events — has someone just been impeached for some reason?  But not the ones described in this story! — a 1000-word flash piece called “Steel Slats” has just gone live on the prestigious and relatively high-circulation (and free!) DAILY SCIENCE FICTION (see August 23, 17; also April 21 2015, et al.).  A little bit of “if this goes on” one might say, but SteelSlatshopefully, too, with a touch of humor.

To back up a moment, I’ll quote from myself, from the email I’d sent submitting “Steel Slats” and which also appears now on DAILY SF:  There’s a certain class of stories I think of as “the devil made me do it” stories, when the news of the day starts sounding so wacky it seems to demand some kind of response.  This is one of those stories.  To read it for yourself — and remember, it’s free! — press here.

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